The New Jersey Devils have raced out of the gate post-Olympics with 11 combined goals in wins against the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders. However, the Devils remain three points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference entering their game Sunday against the San Jose Sharks at Prudential Center.
It's for that reason coach Peter DeBoer has encouraged his players to keep their foot on the gas.
"You've got to get greedy now this time of year. We can’t be happy with four points," DeBoer told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We've got to get greedy. You look around the League and teams aren't losing around us very often, so we've got to win games."
New Jersey is off a 6-1 win against the New York Islanders, and will be without injured defenseman Bryce Salvador (bruised collarbone) and forward Damien Brunner (charley horse in left leg) for the second straight game. Anton Volchenkov, who played Saturday, was in again for Salvador during warmups with Peter Harrold a likely scratch.
Devils left wing Ryane Clowe will play his former team for the first time. Clowe spent nearly eight seasons in San Jose before he was traded to the New York Rangers prior to the NHL Trade Deadline last season.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer, Clowe (5-11-16) has two goals and an assist in his past two games. He missed time from Oct. 13 to Dec. 27 with a concussion.
"Ryane's been excellent," DeBoer said. "Unfortunately for him and for us, we didn't have him in the first half of the year and he came back and he looks to me like the Ryane Clowe of two or three years ago when we used to watch him in San Jose. He’s playing with confidence, he's playing with speed, he's creating plays. … He brings some great leadership qualities to the dressing room. He's a vocal guy, he's an energy guy and we don't have a lot of those guys, so he's been great to work with."
Cory Schneider starts in goal for the Devils. Alex Stalock goes for the Sharks, who with 82 points sit comfortably in second place in the Pacific Division.
Here are the projected lineups for the Devils and Sharks:
Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Jacob Josefson
Ryane Clowe - Andrei Loktionov - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill
Scratched: Peter Harrold
Injured: Bryce Salvador (bruised collarbone), Damien Brunner (charley horse in left leg)
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Martin Havlat
Matt Nieto – Tommy Wingels – Adam Burish
Raffi Torres – Andrew Desjardins – Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Dan Boyle
Matt Irwin – Justin Braun
Jason Demers – Scott Hannan
Scratched: James Sheppard, Matt Tennyson
Injured: Tyler Kennedy (lower body), Tomas Hertl (knee), Brad Stuart (upper body)